Europeans are on to something.

Author:Lorincz, Jim
Position:At large: in the shop

It was obvious at EMO in Milan. Europeans know the value of manufacturing ... and machine tools and automation. In 2002, the 15 member countries of CECIMO (the European Committee for the Co-operation of the Machine Tool Industries) accounted for 17.5 billion [euro] ($20 billion at today's exchange rate), or 52 percent of the global value of machine tool production. Japan accounted for just over 20 percent; China, 9.6 percent; the United States, 6.1 percent; Taiwan, 5.6 percent.

The numbers are large even if we consider production of machine tools by individual countries, as we in the U.S. choose to do. Germany, after all, was number one in 2002, followed closely by Japan. But the Europeans are thinking collectively--at least in so far as the need for research and development into the technologies and their commercialization that will ensure their continuing leadership.

Their commitment is understandable. Total employment in the machine tool sector numbers about 158,000 in some 1,474 companies. The contribution to the European economy and balance of payments is not lost on European planners.

At a briefing at EMO organized by the European Commission together with CECIMO and the Italian Association of Machine Tools, Robots & Automation Manufacturers (UCIMU-Sistemi per Produrre), EU commissioner Phillippe Busquin described the framework of its on-going program to promote "smart, sustainable manufacturing." The program presented a selection of cutting-edge EU-funded projects as well as concrete results of EU projects in industrial...

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